Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The toll of Tennis

Consider this. In his entire career, only once has Roger Federer competed in a tennis match that has lasted over 5 hours. Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, has appeared in five. At 31, Federer still continues to pursue Djokovic for the summit of men’s tennis, while the man from Majorca nurses a knee injury that has kept him competitive tennis ever since Wimbledon last summer. He is just 26.

As tennis matches grow longer, it leaves a puzzling question – how much can the athletes’ body take? The past two years has seen the rise of Novak Djokovic, a player who simply could not climb tennis’ Everest in the preceding years. He has reached 6 of the last nine finals, losing only one of those to Scot Andy Murray. What audiences realize is that the Serb is merely trudging on the foundations laid forth by Nadal. Djokovic has managed to prolong the duration of rallies and in turn the length of matches much like Nadal in his hay day.

Gone are the days when tennis was a recreational sport, the only requirement being a fit body and nippy toes. The likes of Borg, Connors, Sampras and Federer are testimony. Lighter racquets and heavy tennis balls have changed the dimensions and brought about the power of the muscle. These new balls were smoother in the air and although they travelled with the same velocity, they gave the players a few microseconds more to make returns, hence longer rallies.

For the better part of a decade, Federer enthralled audiences with nuances of a perfect game. He remained the only top flight athlete to use a heavier racquet, a reason that enables him to hit better returns at the price of lesser reactionary speed. Nadal challenged him with baseline battles and won. His muscular winners were too quick for Federer. Djokovic beat Nadal at his own game, and it all came round when Murray won at Flushing Meadows.

The sport has turned more physical even though it might lack actual contact. This will take a toll, like Nadal’s knee giving way or Djokovic’s back spasm last year. Murray frailty with his ankles are a known fable while Federer’s exhaustion makes him attack more and hence the unforced errors.

Tennis was never this complicated. The influx of muscle over mind makes it thrilling to watch, but at what cost?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Romain Grosjean – More than just a First-lap Failure

Fans have serious spite for the Frenchman ever since he took out Alonso in Spa last year .
In a totally sane dimension, had Romain Grosjean not tried that overly ambitious move in Spa, five car would have made it cleanly beyond the first corner, he would have been racing in Monza and Fernando Alonso would have been partying in Sao Paulo with his world championship.

In a sport labelled as entertainment in India, sanity is vital as a new set of threaded tyres, and according to the Swiss’ fellow racers, Grosjean lacked a little portion of it. Romain Grosjean would perhaps go down as the most destructive driver in motorsport this year, with only a certain Pastor Maldonado as competition.

But before all the bulldozing, before all the drive-through penalties, and certainly before Spa, Grosjean was a racer brimming with expectation. The 2012 Formula 1 season erased a quite a bit of success that catapulted him to a podium snatcher and a potential championship in the seasons ahead. With racing being banned in his birth country, Grosjean’s family took the trip to neighbouring France from Geneva to accommodate Romain’s passion for circuit racing. His rise was evident when he won the 2003 Swiss Formula Renault series with ten wins from as many starts. He then moved to French Formula Renault and was seventh in 2004 and champion in 2005.

In a technically demanding F3 circuit in Macau, Grosjean impressed with a 9th place finish from the back of the grid. Unfortunately apart from his 2006 Macau debut and a rare podium in Germany, Grosjean had scanty to show for his efforts. A move to champions ASM steered him to the championship in 2007 and a contract as Renault test-driver for the upcoming season.
Over the winter of 2007/8, he became the inaugural GP2 Asia champion for ART, winning four times and beating current Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Buemi in the process. He stayed with ART for the GP2 main series in 2008 before switching to the Addax team for 2009.

Renault’s was in shambles in that year. Team principal Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds were expelled after the details of Piquet’s deliberate crash to help Alonso win the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix had been exposed. Piquet was sacked and Grosjean had literally abandoned his cockpit for Addax to race in place of the Crashgate Casualty at Valencia. Formula One was anything but kind to Grosjean that year. He didn’t finish higher than 12th while (ironically) team-mate Alonso conjured miracles with an average car to seize 5 podiums. An identical crash to Piquet’s in Singapore left him red-faced before he was dropped for the 2010 season.

GP2 was where he found home and recognition. Champion in 2011 with 3 races to go, cemented his place alongside the returning Ice-man, Raikonnen at the newly named Lotus-Renault for 2012. With three podiums he managed to grab quite the attention, but not as much for being coined a ‘First-lap Nutcase’ by Mark Webber.

In another dimension, Grosjean would perhaps been a force to reckon with, and who knows, he still might be. However, in this world, you might just want to steer clear when you see a car painted ‘Grosjean’ zoomed past.    

Thursday, January 10, 2013



Life’s magic is best portrayed when one is procrastinating. The idle brain seeks ways to trick itself out of this dazzling reverie only to find obscure reasons to plummet back into the same trance.

When faced with such a dilemma, I generally read, a lot. It may include anything, from the daily news to some old dusty novel that I had thrown aside months earlier. On occasional days, I would often surf the web and fascinate myself with tales of Greek heroes or fill my rather fast emptying head with bucket loads of information. Strangely enough so it may seem, I have been pretty idle recently. I haven’t finished any books, my blogs have run dry and there are still unexplored pages on the internet that truly deserve my utmost attention.

Putting a lot of will power into this manuscript, and on an almost soaked-out battery on my computer, I began what may seem a pretty ‘weak’ blog, or so it seems. I was beginning to lose interest with every other word. Keane’s ‘Somewhere only we know’ was flooding my ears, making me unperceivable to any noise or distraction around me, although my room-mates are rather quiet. With very few topics in question, I may as well write upon my dreams, and lately I haven’t been having pleasant, honey-dripping ones.

In a dream a night previous to last, I saw Felipe Massa die in a horrible car crash. Of when I mention Massa and cars, I am talking about Formula One of course. It seemed a track I had never seen before, with a vicious bend and a sharp chicane. From what I recalled, I saw Felipe banging wheel with another car and his tyres came off their rims. Astonishingly his car rolled on some distance until it hit a barrier where the driver was thrown out of the car and lay on the floor, motionless. It was horrible crash. Everyone, I included, was sobbing presumably and heavily. I have no idea what that dream meant, but I awoke disturbed and stirred. I, however, checked online, wishing to myself that may even Felipe’s arch-rivals not have vision like the one I had. He was fine and I was quite happy to see him wearing his ever-so-cute childish grin waving to the camera as he made a handsome donation at a charity event.

The world is a strange place, new streets emerge every day.